raycashdelivery.jpgOhio has never really been considered a hot spot for hip-hop. The only noteworthy rappers to come from the Midwestern state are teen titan Bow Wow and tongue twisters Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. That was until Cleveland representative Ray Cash emerged last year with the pimpalicious single “Sex Appeal.” But those expecting the standard money, cash, hoes fodder from the bespectacled MC will be pleasantly surprised by his debut disc, C.O.D. (Cash on Delivery).

Things jump off with the lyrically dense “Payback,” where Cash drops more lines than Tetris over breezy snares and a scratched vocal snipe, then he goes flow for flow with T.I. on the Rick Rock–produced “Bumpin’ My Music.” But it’s the hypnotic “Take It How You Want It” that best displays Ray Scrilla’s witty wordplay. “I been poppin’ my collar since poppin’ a collar been popular/’Cause I’m fresh to def and popular don’t mean I won’t pop at cha.”

The lyrical darts are just as sharp when Cash taps into his softer side. On the repentant “I Know You’re Sayin’” he vividly breaks down the inner turmoil of a bitter breakup over a soulful ’70s sound bed. The Chad Hamilton–produced “Better Way” displays similar depth, as Ray and Beanie Sigel deliver heartfelt rhymes about surviving the everyday struggle. However, Cash saves his best bars for the politically charged “Fuck Amerikkka,” passionately spittin’, “You travel to space, other planets lookin’ for Martians/Kids in your own fuckin’ cities is starvin’/Sending money to feed people in the third world country/Muthafuckas sleepin’ on the street dirty and hungry.”

The only time the rookie falters is with the bland drug ballad “The Bomb,” which winds up being a dud because of Rockwilder’s played-out faux–West Coast track. Aside from a few unimaginative hooks (like on “Smokin’ & Leanin’”), C.O.D. is a solid debut that’s right on the money.—ANSLEM SAMUEL